Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

The Astonishing Color of After, by Emily X.R. Pan

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Back from a 3 week vacation through Utah, so I’m trying to catch up. I’ll be pasting in my Goodreads reviews on a few books I read while we were away. 🙂

Suicide, depression, grief. These are heavy subjects. Leigh Chen Sanders is trying to cope with all of them. Her mother is gone, depression has clouded their family for years, and now she and her father are trying to pick up the pieces.

And her mother? Her mother is now a bird. A red, fleeting bird who is always just beyond her grasp. Leigh is convinced of it. She is also convinced that the answers she seeks are in Taiwan with the grandparents she’s never met. Her father agrees to take her there.

The rest is a journey of memories and family revelations.

The Astonishing Color of After was my first foray into magical realism. I love the title and the concept of Leigh mentally transferring her mother’s spirit into a bird. But the story fell flat. Leigh is the crankiest, most unlikable character. She is rude to everyone, offended by everything, and acts as if her grief gives her a free pass to treat people horribly. She is at constant odds with her father, who is clearly just trying to keep the family afloat in these challenging circumstances. Yet Leigh never sees beyond her own needs.

The color imagery felt forced. Leigh is an artist and she thinks and feels in colors. But having a character like Leigh create beauty and meaning while being constantly sour does not work. I didn’t care for her, so I couldn’t care about her. Her supposed self-discovery is as ridiculous as her sudden lightheartedness at the story’s conclusion. Everything is tied up in a neat little bow….after all that? My head was spinning.

The reviews I read on the book were overwhelmingly positive, so I dove in with high expectations. Overall I found it to be tedious, very boring, and frustrating. I felt disconnected throughout the entire story and deeply disappointed in the unrealistic ending.

7.5/10 Stars

(My Goodreads Review)

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